Consumers already pay a large monthly bill for both their home internet and mobile plans which is why Napster's co-creator Shawn Fanning, Sproutling founder Chris Bruce and Amir Haleem set out to develop a fee-free peer-to-peer network for internet of things (IoT) devices.
Their company, Helium has released its IoT wireless hotspot to provide wireless connectivity to the internet through a blockchain-based incentives program.
A single Helium Hotspot retails for $495 and can provide coverage to around 1/50 or 1/150 of a city according to the company's research. The device uses close to the same amount of power as an LED light bulb at 12 watts to provide wireless internet to nearby devices.
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The Helium Hotsspot plugs into a user's home network and encrypts traffic from the device to the cloud using onboard blockchain technology to add and validate devices.
The device can reach 200 times farther than conventional Wi-Fi routers as it uses the LongFi protocol and according to the company, just 50-100 hotspots are required to cover an entire city.
Helium has also developed an Arm-based, battery-powered chip which can be attached to pet collars, water and air quality sensors and even ride-share scooters to provide them with an internet connection from nearby Helium Hotspots at a data transfer rate of 5 kilobits per second.
By sharing their internet connection with these chips, Hotspot owners can earn free cryptocurrency which can help offset their initial investment. Each hotspot acts as a mining node within Helium's blockchain through a proof-of-coverage challenge-response protocol that is used to authenticate other devices on the network.
The company's list of launch partners already contains some big names such as ride-sharing scooter company Lime and beverage company Nestle. At the same time, pet product company InvisiLeash is working together with Helium to build a line of connected pet products starting with collars.
According to Helium, the company has already sold out 80 percent of its hotspots in its launch market of Austin, Texas and thousands of people have joined its global waiting list.
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